Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yankee OED

My friends got married. I approved. Congrats to them. The wedding was in the bride's hometown of Hereford, which is in the panhandle of Texas. It's known as the beef capital of the world. It's a dry dry land that survives on a buried aquifer and gov't subsidies. The people of Hereford were very friendly, but they had a half sarcastic, half joshing, half pure hidden hatred of Yanks. Before this trip, I'd hardly thought of my designation as a yankee. claims that the term carries less emotion [nowadays] except when referring to the baseball team. I must politely disagree. To west Texans, it is a term that is full of secret knowledge, and most of that knowledge doesn't seem complimentary.

Then there was the question of who geographically is a Yank. Outside of the US, we all are; see: Yankee, Go Home. At the wedding, a couple of characters from Milwaukee were surprised to find it ascribed to them, assuming that a yankee was exclusively a New England to South Jersey thing. I've always assumed I fully fall into the Yankee category, as Ohio was a mostly full participant in the Civil War. I didn't feel any less yankified when I was in Minneapolis, though. It's still a midwestern town, protestant, and slaveless in history. How far west does Yankee go? The determination of your yankee bonafides seems to lie entirely on a geographic point of view. From where we sit, that's how things are seen.

1. a. a nickname for a native or inhabitant of New England, or, more widely, of the northern States generally; during the War of Secession* applied by the Confederates to the soldiers of the Federal army.
b. an American**
3. Whiskey sweetened with molasses. colloq.
5. b. adj. That is a Yankee; pertaining to or characteristic of Yankees (often with connotation of cleverness, cunning, or cold calculation); loosely, belonging to the United States.

*War of Secession? Is this the Southern name for it? Why would the Brits use this term? (ahem, we won)
**American? Paraguayans and Chileans and the like might not agree.

The etymology is entirely unclear. Possible sources - mangling of the Cherokee word for coward or slave, eankee; perhaps from the diminutive for John, Janke; maybe an indian mispronunciation of the French word anglais (english).


Saturday, April 26, 2008

To A Town Near You

My friend Gina wrote a book. This is me plugging it.

I meet Gina at Drake. She was studying the same things I was studying, advertising and graphic design. I dropped out. She graduated and took a job as an art director for an agency in Chicago. She wasn't satisfied in quite the same way I imagine I wouldn't have been satisfied.

She found Wild Gift, a fund that offers a few people a year cash to do whatever it is they plan to do that "will benefit the natural environment and human community." She wrote a proposal and was stunned when they accepted hers. Stunned and very very excited. Her proposal was to write a book on and take pictures of urban sprawl. She wanted to make a change and was offered a chance.

I'm not real clear on if the format the book appears in was the planned format, but it works out very well. Rather than trying to become an expert and preach in typical nonfic style, she opted to interview people who are experts only in their very limited way: mayors and residents of suburbs and exurbs. A town planner, an environmentalist, and a small farmer.

The small farmer was my dad. The book is titled Now Coming To A Town Near You and can be found at The photography is also by Gina and is awesome. You should buy this book. It's for a good cause. It looks good on your end table. The pictures are pretty. I told you to. It'll make you look aware in front of that girl you want to impress. I'm in it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Abortionist's Daughter

40 hours a week with headphones on leads one to Books on mp3. I spent a week's pay to get 24 downloads. One way I justify that in my mind is to pretend I'm learning when I listen to things.
I think I shall review the books here as I finish them. Previously I've read Salt and Beowulf. Salt is about salt and how it shaped and flavored and preserved the world. Beowulf is an old old story that was recently retranslated into friendly English (in verse! yay!).

The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde.
Most books I know going into them. This one was one I picked off a List of Lists on Audible. Utterly random, excepting that the list title assured me the list was UK's choices on a level of the quality of book choices of Oprah. I was misassured. Oprah's list is good.
It's the story of a small town murder mystery. A prominent abortion doctor woman is killed at home and the story follows what happens next, and slightly before. It's the most god-awful piece of shit I've read in years. But I paid for it and am cheap, so I finished it.
The first most flagrant issue was there was no mystery. As soon as the murderer was introduced, you knew him. Whenever his storyline lengthened, you had no doubts. Every single other character was shown to have not been the murderer. I don't read many mysteries, but I'm going to have to assume that this isn't how they usually work.
The other big problem was that the whole situation was simply factually implausible. I've experienced a father assumed guilty. Elisabeth clearly has not. Small town cops don't work that way. Child porn kingpins don't go into a room off their kitchen and type a couple of things and remove the picture of the local DA's kid from their empire with a couple of clicks. Abortion clinics are nothing like how they were portrayed in the book. The murderer doesn't leave the incriminating glove at the scene that is only discovered months later while still wearing the other unmissing glove. Underage kids take sexually suggestive photos. This is not shockworthy.
All in all, a total bust.
The detective's name is Huck Berlin. His older, balding partner is always featured eating a doughnut out of the back of a police truck. The handsome, piercingly blue-eyed Huck cheats on his woman with the 19 yr old daughter of the deceased in a romance cut and pasted from a Harlequin Romance. In the final passages, they run into one another at the grocery store and she agrees to go with him to the pound to pick him out a dog.

The reviewers on Audible, to their credit, panned this shit. Amazon, you fail. I want to know whose hand to pad to get this shit to the public.
The Abortionist's Daughter 2.2


Thursday, April 17, 2008

TATTOO'S in Chesterville

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Six Word Memoirs

Remember PostSecret? It was a blog, then a book. Then four books. The idea was catchy. Get a postcard and write down a secret you never told anyone and send it to the blog to be posted to the world. Very creative and freeing. In my opinion, it got worse with time. Some were clearly made up for the shock value. Others were art projects, not simple anonymous confessions.

Enter the next (and already overexpanded) clever confessional. Prove your literary worth while summing up your life so far in only six words. I don't dislike it yet. Started by the online magazine Smith, the project has for all practical purposes eaten the magazine. The book has been out for a bit. Here's how they sum it up:
Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Last year, SMITH Magazine re-ignited the recountre by asking our readers for their own six-word memoirs. They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”) and hilarious (“I like big butts, can’t lie”).

I've been working on mine for weeks now. I've had an unhappy year. It took a while to write one that wasn't entirely bitter.
sharp - dress, tongue, mind, smell, teeth
Do write your own. It's interesting and I want to read it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Quantico Circuit

The Quantico Circuit sounds like the title of a sloppy noir pulp novel. Perhaps the plot would be as follows: intrepid gumshoe smokes out nefarious crime syndicate's spy organization.

It's really the name of the project wherein a "major wireless carrier" allows an "unnamed source" to look at ALL the motherfucking info. In this case it's been suggested AT&T or Verizon as the "major wireless carrier" and the FBI as the "unnamed source." The government has been allowed freely to listen in on, record, track, and trace all calls, texts, emails and bills. This was why Bush wanted telco immunity. This is why I want to vomit.

In the fall of 2003, Pasdar was hired by a major telecommunications carrier to overhaul its security. He discovered a mysterious “Quantico Circuit” with access to the entire mobile network that didn’t have any security controls. Nor did it have any usage logs making a record of what information flowed through the system. The security breach was unheard of, abandoning basic industry norms.

Despite half-hearted protests by Congress, the FBI's budget for these operations have increased significantly.

And in the one story running from a national news outlet, the story that started it all, congratulations to the Washington Post.
"When you're building something like this deeply into the telecommunications infrastructure, when it becomes so technically easy to do, the only thing that stands between legitimate use and abuse is the complete honesty of the persons and agencies using it and the ability to have independent oversight over the system's use," said Lauren Weinstein, a communications systems engineer and co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, a group that studies Web issues. "It's who watches the listeners."

I am a Verizon customer. I am a Verizon customer because from Ohio to Iowa to Minnesota, their coverage was best four years ago. I did re-up about 2 years ago because nothing was different. My agreement is up and I'm running month by month. What now? The articles and interviews created after the Wash Post story ran seem to agree that the culprit here is Verizon. I'm not yet convinced this is fact, but. This on top of the capitulation demanded and received post 9/11. The company is rotten. Am I wrong in remembering that there was one national carrier President who showed the fed the figs when they demanded access in the name of National Security? Was it Alltel? Concerned customers (without an early end of contract fee looming) want to know.

Not related: were books like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Chill actually any better than the similar stuff being spewed forth?


The Mystery of Antoine de Saint Exupéry

The mystery is no more.
His P-38 was shot down by a German Messerschmitt 109. May he rest in peace.

"I am looking for friends. What does that mean---tame?"

"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."

"To establish ties?"

"Just that," said the fox. "to me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world. . ."

"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Doom and Gloom

I know I'm negative. That's one of my better qualities. But I'm going to try to bring little bits of sunshine to the blog now and again.

The local newspaper is The Mount Vernon News. It's not very good. It takes clear sides on many issues, usually on the front page. The editorials are reserved for angry Liberal college professors and assbackwards xenophobic Christians.

The big news item locally has been a proposed small CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) just outside of town. A local farmer intends on building two chicken sheds to house approx. 75,000 birds at a time. This was reported almost a month ago. Since that time there have been five front page articles discussing the farm and the surrounding issues and several Letters to the Ed promoting individuals views (including, I think, the proposing farmer?). THIS IS GOOD. I'm pretty certain that the Mount Vernon News has a very set rate of sales. It's hard to gin up a local concern that would sell better than posting American Idol results on the front page. That small town Ohio has enough people to care to cause a small paper to pay attention is AWESOME.

My neighbors are concerned about the problems involved with safely removing tons of chickenshit. They are concerned with the loss of family farmers if regulations and concerns keep this farm from going forward. They're concerned about the economic impact of the building and maintaining of an operation this size. They're concerned about the source of city water and possible contaminants. Three cheers for an informed citizenry!


Thursday, April 10, 2008


I do not like typing "global food crisis" into Google news and getting 6,059 hits. (When did this become a recognized metric?) For those of you unawares, the UN has been raising a stink as riots over food are breaking out in select places worldwide. I heard someone describe it Tuesday as a perfect storm:

harvests down (Mr. Gore, care to comment?)
fuel corn is not food corn
forests are being increasing destroyed to make up for the land taken by biofuels
the earth is overpopulated
American war spending is reduction in American everything else spending
American economy otherwise on the brink - housing/credit, wall st v main st, inflation, poor get poorer
fuel prices drive production and shipping costs

Am I more afraid than a perfectly informed person ought to be? Perhaps. Are we going to fix enough things this time around that only a couple million will truly suffer? Probably. Do I need to live my own personal life and not worry my little head over global and unstoppable events that started before I was born? Absolutely. Or, at least until it really is TEOTWAWKI.

A global food crisis. Holy fucking shit.
One teensy, tiny reason I had stayed here in Ohio past my return flight to Minneapolis was a question in the back of my head. Is it now? I'd rather be home on the farm when it hits, than 600 miles away in an urban center. I don't think it is. Not yet. Not here in richpoor middle America. But my mind is creeping closer to the more paranoid worldview held by simonzayne.



Wednesday, April 9, 2008



Podcast - Coverville

Through a temp agency, I work 2nd shift on an assembly line with trained, cigarette smoking monkeys. Four tens of such mind numbery would not be worth the pittance DDed weekly into my account were it not for iPods and podcasts and Audible.
I utter around four sentences a night that are not directly related to problems I am having with my part of the line. The rest of the time I snuggle up close to my headphones and ignore the people around me who occasionally move their lips while looking my direction. They probably were telling me that they liked me.

Good podcasts are hard to find. I am hard to please. iTunes is poorly organized. IF YOU KNOW OF GOOD PODCASTS, PLEASE, PLEASE SEND THEM MY WAY. I promise that if I hate them I will not pee in your soup.

Coverville is one of the best podcasts. Three times a weeks, Brian Ibbott records a show in his basement in Colorado. Inauspicious, yet wonderful. It's good that he has a radio voice to begin with. It's a music show. Usually six songs. All covers. Some nights are prescribed as all request, some tell the story of a person or a band and some are grouped thematically.
A little talking. A slew of new bands. Songs heard for the very second time. Under 40 minutes. This show is tight. An opening theme song (Cover Me) and a couple of end credits when necessary, the rest is pure radio goodness.

Brian is coming up on show number 500. The archives go all the way back. Impressive, entertaining, I cannot gush enough.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring at Last

Spring at last, spring at last.
Thank God Almighty, it's spring at last.

Favorites. Some forms of favoritism I can't wrap my head around. Most of the security questions some dumbshit thought up for password retrieval are asinine. Favorite color? Beats me. Favorite month? That's silly. I had one the other day ask me what my favorite day was. WTF?
But my favorite season is fall. It is the best.
My least favorite (maybe that'll be part of my criteria to have favorites, an equal opposite) season is late winter/early spring. It's wet and chilly and muddy and only suggests that winter won't be around forever. I'm past wanting suggestions, I need green now.
The peepers came out about 9 days ago. From then it was just a matter of waiting. Yesterday it broke. We're through. I'm delirious.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Precocious OED

1 Of a plant: Flowering or fruiting early; spec. bearing blossom before the leaves; also said of the blossoms or fruit.
2 fig. Of persons: Prematurely developed in some faculty or proclivity.

From the Latin praecox (premature?). Which when it made it to the French became praecoquere and means to pre-cook, to boil beforehand.

Walking home from the bar on Saturday, we were discussing the 12 year old stripper. The word precocious was used. I found that I didn't know exactly what was meant by that. I am quite surprised to find the definition to be so rigid, that it hasn't become sloppy english to mean anything else.
It took me a bit to find the antonym, serotious.

a. Late in occurance or development; chiefly of plants late flowering.
sb. A late flowering plant or species.

It's also the name of a bat. One that is seen late in the evening. It's interesting that the one word is a commonly used and widely understood one, while even the definition of it's opposite points exclusively towards a purely zoological origin and usage. Every comprehends a precocious child. No one understands the serotious man. Which I like to think I am.


Saturday, April 5, 2008


I've held him up as a shining example before, but I think there might be a bit more of politics on this blog. Glenn Greenwald writes at Salon. He may have single-handedly prevented Telco immunity to pass the House. From his latest post:

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

"Yoo and torture" - 102

"Mukasey and 9/11" -- 73

"Yoo and Fourth Amendment" -- 16

"Obama and bowling" -- 1,043

"Obama and Wright" -- More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)

"Obama and patriotism" - 1,607

"Clinton and Lewinsky" -- 1,079


Thursday, April 3, 2008


The end of the world as we know it, as it's written on apocalypse forums. Blatantly stolen from this article. Looks a bit like Wotokahan.

A favorite bar discussion of mine is TEOTWAWKI. It's best to include at least two people you have just met or barely know. Fresh water and guns. Gardeners and college hippies. Survival training and suicide. Future projections. There's a large amount of ground to cover. Drinking adds wide-eyed accusations and a good lack of critical reasoning. Fun times had all around.

At work my super is the only one willing (able) to discuss literature with me. For a reason I promptly forgot, she brought me one of her favorite books to read, Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. Never mind the paper thin characters and the plot consisting of the most unbelievable tripe, Mr. Frank sucks at imagining a post-apocalypse America. Just utter and complete failure.

After the bomb, city dwellers wouldn't just sit in their cities.
Hanging one highway-man in a small town would not deter all further lawlessness.
You do not forget the artesian well.
You do not forget the food you prepared the day before the bomb (in case of just such an emergency) for six months.

Trashy pulpy nonsense. Which would be fine, but this book consistently gets rave reviews for "getting it right" and "thinking it through." I think Cormac McCarthy's The Road, by getting it actually right has ruined me for all previous and woefully failing attempts to create a realistic Post story. I remember finishing the Road in awe of his lack of writing a passage that I could find at all dubious. This is akin to when I finished No Country For Old Men last summer and dreamed of the amazing movie that could be made from it. Thank you for not sucking, Coen brothers.


Floyd and Mabel


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

50 Years of Victory

I finished reading Dan Simmons' Hyperion and went directly to the library to pick up his latest book, The Terror. Stephen King has one of the blurbs on the back, and he mutters something about Simmons being good. (There is an agent somewhere whose entire comfortable existence is built upon getting Mr King's name on the back of books.) Simmons here, is good.

The Terror is the story of two British ice-breakers (iron-clad gunships) sent to attempt to discover the still at the time imaginary water route north of Canada to the Pacific. That isn't the story, just the setting. They are stuck. It is the nearing winter of 1847 after a thawless summer. Coal is running low. Canned food was provisioned by the lowest bidder. They are being killed one by one by a demon. The Terror the the name of the second ship. That's a pretty cool name for a ship.

50 Years of Victory is an even cooler name for a ship. It's Russia's flagship nuclear icebreaker. Pictures here.